Many Vietnamese Activists under House Arrest during Weekend One Week Prior to Obama’s Visit

Peaceful demonstration on environmental issues in Hanoi on May 1, 2016
Peaceful demonstration on environmental issues in Hanoi on May 1, 2016 (Photo taken from social network)

[themify_box style=”blue, announcement, rounded” ]Many Vietnamese activists have reported that they are under house arrest during this weekend one week prior to the official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the communist nation and the general elections for the country’s parliament and People’s Councils in all levels.[/themify_box]

By Vu Quoc Ngu, May 14, 2016

Many Vietnamese activists have reported that they are under house arrest during this weekend one week prior to the official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the communist nation and the general elections for the country’s parliament and People’s Councils in all levels.

Saigon-based prominent human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists Le Cong Dinh and Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, bloggers Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Nguyen Xuan Dien, Le Dung, and Vu Quoc Ngu from Hanoi and many others are under status quo of house arrest as local authorities are deploying a large number of plainclothes agents to monitor their private residences since very early of May 14.

Police are setting up patrol points near their residences and not allow them to go out in a bid to prevent them from attending peaceful demonstrations to raise their voices about the country’s socio-economic issues, particularly the ongoing environmental disaster in the nation’s central coastal areas where hundreds of tons of marine species have died due to sea water’s contamination of very toxic chemicals.

During the week, Vietnamese environmentalists have called for national peaceful demonstration on Saturday and Sunday to demand the government to thoroughly investigate the environmental catastrophe in the central coastal region and have urgent actions to deal with the problem which is predicted to have negative on the country’s environment and socio-economic development for decades.

More than one month after the massive death of aquatic species in the central region, Vietnam’s government has yet to release official report on defining the real causes of the issue, saying relevant agencies are still conducting investigation.

Many experts and environmentalists have blamed the Formosa steel plant of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Corp. for causing the en-mass death of fish as it has discharged a huge volume of improperly-treated waste into Vietnam’s sea. The Taiwanese firm, which has carried out $10 billion steel project in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh and plans to raise its total investment in its complex in the province to nearly $30 billion, has admitted to import over 300 tons of very toxic chemicals for cleaning its machineries in its Ha Tinh province-based plant. It has also committed to throw roughly 931,830 cubic meters of waste water into Vietnam’s sea in the first quarter this year without being inspected by the local authorities.

Vietnam’s government has tolerated any criticism and applied all measures to prevent and suppress all spontaneous public demonstrations although the right of freedom of assembly is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution. The Ministry of Public Security has used government’s controversial decrees, particularly Decree 36 to suppress peaceful rallies and charge protestors with allegation of causing public disorders under Article 258 of the Penal Code.

Meanwhile, many activists, including Saigon-based veteran journalist Huynh Ngoc Chenh have announced to hold public protests on streets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to condemn the violent suppression against peaceful demonstrators, including women and children across the nation in recent weeks.

On May 1 and May 8, security forces in Hanoi, HCMC, Nha Trang and Danang violently suppressed environmental demonstrations in which thousands of activists participated. Police arrested hundreds of protestors and severely beat them during the detention and in police’s custody.

Meanwhile, President Obama will conduct his first and final visit to Vietnam on a capacity of the head of the White House on May 22-25. Vietnam’s human rights situation is among key issues of his talks with the local leadership.

Vietnam will carry out formal general elections on May 22 to elect the new parliament in the 14th tenure and People’s Councils in provincial, district and communal levels in the 2016-2020 period. In April, the rubber stamp parliament in the 13th term formally elected the new leadership, including the top legislator, the prime minister and the president.

The Vietnamese new leadership will continue to apply strict political control to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders, foreign and local observers said./.